When it comes down to it, victory does not go to the Mercedes. Even though it was launched just two years ago, in early 2002, the strong-selling E-class is already beginning to show its age. It is well packaged and terrific-looking and has a great overall image, but it is disappointing on the road. Compared with the 530i and the A6, the E320 has the most sluggish driveline, the least engaging steering, and the spongiest brakes. In addition, its chassis is neither particularly comfortable nor very sporty.
Without AS and ARS, the 530i is just a car. Even with these technologies, the 530i's looks and the iDrive system are an acquired taste, and it has the most compromised rear seat. But in terms of responsiveness and agility, a properly spec'd 5-series outshines the competition. The steering, ride, and chassis balance are strong arguments for those who love to drive hard.
If the 530i is the best-handling car, then the Audi must be the most compelling all-arounder. The A6 wins by a nose-despite the choppy ride and the less than compelling steering. Its engine produces more midrange punch, it is fitted with the most intuitive transmission, and it has the best brakes, the nicest cabin, and the most appealing ergonomics. The A6 also eclipses its rivals in terms of traction and stability, and it is comprehensively equipped. It is the pragmatic and rational choice. Although the new A6 may not be the ultimate driving machine, it does offer a greater variety of talents than its esteemed rivals.